My blog about soft hackle wet flies would not be complete if it didn’t contain a mention at least, of the Black Pennell. This famous fly credited as being first tied by the Victorian Editor of Field Magazine, Mr H. Cholmondley Pennell, has accounted for more than its fair share of Scottish brown trout.
Tied in larger sizes it is an effective sea trout fly as well as an excellent brown trout fly tied in smaller sizes. The Black Pennell always has a place within my collection of soft hackle wet fly patterns. This fly was my top soft hackle wet fly during the 2014 season and you can see my other top performing soft hackle wet flies on the Top Flies page.
The Black Pennell is an effective pattern to use during a Chironomid hatch. I believe the orange pheasant tippets, used in the tail, are suggestive of the natural’s shuck or suggest the haemoglobin found in a natural Chironomid. It could also be argued that the silver rib on the contrasting black body of the fly, acts to suggest the gases found in the natural Chironomid as it swims towards the surface to hatch. Once the fly has taken a few fish, the body of black floss tends to get a bit chewed and ragged. But there is no need to tie a new fly as I have found this seems to improve the fly’s attractiveness further if anything.
Like most of my other soft hackle wet flies, I aim for a slim profile when tying the Black Pennell. The size of hook should be matched to the natural insects you find on your water. For me this is about a #14 fine wire, standard shank hook but your choice may very well be different of course. When tying the tail of the fly, try to get the orange colour of the tippets to uniformly show at all viewing angles of the tail. This can be achieved by rolling the fibres together before tying them in place. I like to have a swept back hackle on most of my soft hackle wet flies as shown in my images here of the the Black Pennell, however you can leave the hackle more open if you prefer.
The Black Pennell is an effective fly especially in early and late season and it can be fished at all levels in the water column. It is a fairly straightforward fly to tie, just like most other soft hackle wet flies are. For me the keys to a well tied Black Pennell are overall balance, sparseness, proportion and a slim profile. Happy tying!